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Watford v. Matevousian

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 31, 2015

JOHN JOSE WATFORD, Petitioner,
v.
ANDRE MATEVOUSIAN, Warden, Respondent.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Respondent, Andre Matevousian, Warden of United States Prison Atwater, is hereby substituted as the proper named respondent pursuant to Rule 25 (d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Petitioner's March 9, 2015 motion to amend the petition to name the proper respondent is hereby granted. (ECF No. 10.)

Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition in this Court on January 5, 2015. He is currently incarcerated at the United States Prison in Atwater, California. Petitioner was arrested in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana for aggravated bank robbery and aiding and abetting the carrying of a firearm. Petitioner was found guilty by a jury of using a firearm in furtherance of bank robbery. United States v. Watford, 165 F.3d 34 (7th Cir. 1998). Petitioner claims he is entitled to relief in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Rosemond v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 1240, 1241 (2014). (See generally Pet., ECF No. 1 at 5-9.)

I. SCREENING THE PETITION

Because the petition was filed after April 24, 1996, the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), AEDPA applies to this petition. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 327 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484, 1499 (9th Cir. 1997).

The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (Habeas Rules) are appropriately applied to proceedings undertaken pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Habeas Rule 1(b). Habeas Rule 4 requires the Court to make a preliminary review of each petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Court must summarily dismiss a petition "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court...." Habeas Rule 4; O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990). Habeas Rule 2(c) requires that a petition 1) specify all grounds of relief available to the Petitioner; 2) state the facts supporting each ground; and 3) state the relief requested. Notice of pleading is not sufficient; rather, the petition must state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional error. Rule 4, Advisory Committee Notes, 1976 Adoption; O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d at 420 (quoting Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7 (1977)). Allegations in a petition that are vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible are subject to summary dismissal. Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d at 491.

Further, the Court may dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus either on its own motion under Habeas Rule 4, pursuant to the respondent's motion to dismiss, or after an answer to the petition has been filed. Advisory Committee Notes to Habeas Rule 8, 1976 Adoption; see Herbst v. Cook, 260 F.3d 1039, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. JURISDICTION

A federal court may not entertain an action over which it has no jurisdiction. A federal prisoner who wishes to challenge the validity or constitutionality of his conviction or sentence must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Tripati v. Henman, 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir. 1988). In such cases, only the sentencing court has jurisdiction. Id. at 1163. A prisoner may not collaterally attack a federal conviction or sentence by way of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d 861, 865 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Generally, motions to contest the legality of a sentence must be filed under § 2255 in the sentencing court, while petitions that challenge the manner, location, or conditions of a sentence's execution must be brought pursuant to § 2241 in the custodial court."); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162.

In contrast, a federal prisoner challenging the manner, location, or conditions of that sentence's execution must bring a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hernandez, 204 F.3d at 865. Petitioner seeks review of his conviction and sentence under § 2241, arguing that Rosemond altered the standard of knowledge for defendants convicted of aiding and abetting the possession or use of a weapon during the commission of certain federal offenses. Rosemond v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 1240 (2014); (Pet. at 5-9). Petitioner argues that he would not have been convicted of several counts if the jury instructions in his trial had complied with the reasoning of Rosemond. Id . Accordingly, Petitioner believes his sentence is unlawfully long. (Pet. at 5-9.) Because Petitioner is challenging the validity and constitutionality of his federal sentence imposed by a federal court, rather than an error in the administration of his sentence, § 2255's exclusive remedy rule bars the present petition, unless the savings clause applies.

A. Application of The Savings Clause

The Ninth Circuit has recognized a narrow exception allowing a federal prisoner authorized to seek relief under § 2255 to seek relief under § 2241 if the remedy by motion under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the validity of his detention." Alaimalo v. United States, 636 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th Cir. 2011), citing Harrison v. Ollison, 519 F.3d 952, 956 (9th Cir. 2008). "This is called the savings clause' or escape hatch' of § 2255." Id . Furthermore, § 2255 petitions are rarely found to be inadequate or ineffective. Aronson v. May, 85 S.Ct. 3, 5 (1964) (a court's denial of a prior § 2255 motion is insufficient to render § 2255 inadequate.); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162-63 (9th Cir. 1988) (a petitioner's fears of bias or unequal treatment do not render a § 2255 petition inadequate). The burden is on the petitioner to show that the remedy is inadequate or ineffective. Redfield v. United States, 315 F.2d 76, 83 (9th Cir. 1963).

The Ninth Circuit further held that relief pursuant to § 2241 is available under the escape hatch' of § 2255 when a petitioner (1) makes a claim of actual innocence, and (2) has not had an unobstructed procedural shot' at presenting that claim. Ivy v. Pontesso, 328 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2003); Stephens v. Herrera, 464 F.3d 895, 898 (9th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, a petitioner must prove both actual innocence and lack of unobstructed procedural opportunity to demonstrate that a remedy under § 2255 is ...


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